Wyoming news briefs for April 15
Commissioners make Johnson County a Second Amendment preservation county
BUFFALO – Johnson County is now a Second Amendment preservation county, after the unanimous passage of resolution No. 655 by the county commissioners on April 6.
Commission Chairman Bill Novotny said the resolution came about after consultation with the sheriff's office and hearing concerns from county residents.
The resolution states the county's strong support for the Second Amendment and the belief that it is “an inalienable right of the citizens of Johnson County to keep and bear arms for the defense of life, liberty and property.”
The resolution also states that funds from the county treasury, county personnel and county resources cannot be “used in a manner to abridge the rights of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms as an individual right.”
After the resolution's passage, County Attorney Tucker Ruby said the word '"preservation" in the resolution is of particular importance, because it is only for those law-abiding citizens who have not lost their gun rights.
"It's not a sanctuary place for folks that want to have guns that are otherwise not allowed to,” he said. “But, if you can legally have guns, we very much support that.”
After the passage of the county resolution, Novotny shared the document on Facebook, where it was met with some resistance from community members who expressed frustration that the county had passed a resolution and not passed an ordinance that included penalties for violations.
“Counties do not have legal authority to pass ordinances,” Novotny wrote in response. “Ordinances are a function of city government and their home rule authority. Counties pass resolutions.”
Drowned Yellowstone bison winched and hauled away
JACKSON — When the Yellowstone Plateau melts out each spring, it’s not unusual for a hapless animal to emerge from under the ice at Blacktail Ponds near Mammoth.
The occasional carcasses are a draw for throngs of wildlife enthusiasts and photographers hoping to peep scavenging grizzly bears and wolves along one of the only roads open this time of year in Yellowstone National Park. This year, however, park staff found seven bison drowned in the shallow, spring-fed roadside ponds. Over the weekend the thousands of pounds of rotting meat disappeared after being winched and then driven away by Yellowstone rangers.
“They attracted large numbers of visitors in an area with few turnouts and poor visibility around corners which created hazardous driving conditions,” Yellowstone spokeswoman Linda Veress explained in an email. “The carcasses were removed in order to prevent traffic congestion and injuries to pedestrians.”
Four of the intact, waterlogged bison were removed Friday. The remaining three animals came out the following day. They were all taken to designated carcass dumps that are closed to the public, Veress said.
To rangers’ knowledge, Yellowstone’s famed large carnivores had not yet discovered the bison smorgasbord before the carcass removal project.
At least one wildlife photographer who captured the winching operation on video was understanding of the park’s decision to remove the animals.
“Moving the food source further away from the road allows the bears, wolves, and other scavengers to get their meal without the chaos of crowds of onlookers,” Rob Harwood (@RobWildPhoto) wrote in a post he shared on Facebook.
Arguments heard in Klingbeil appeal
CODY – Oral arguments were heard on Tuesday for Wapiti resident Dennis Klingbeil’s Wyoming Supreme Court appeal of his 2019 conviction for first degree murder.
Klingbeil is arguing the state erred during his district court case by using and relying on the opinion of a forensic pathologist that his shooting of his wife Donna Klingbeil was homicide, and that evidence from a 2011 visit sheriff deputies made to the couple’s home should not have been used in the case.
The state is denying both charges.
Chief Justice Michael Davis expressed some skepticism about the defense’s arguments impacting the case as a whole, describing the evidence against Klingbeil as “pretty devastating even without that argument,” he said.
Klingbeil’s role in pulling the trigger that killed his wife is not in dispute.
When it came to the 2011 evidence, Brenna Fisher, a law student who is a member of Klingbeil’s legal team, said the court “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in admitting this to the case. The relevance of this evidence was that Donna Klingbeil accused Dennis Klingbeil of presenting a gun while they were having an argument.
Fisher argued no proof exists that the gun wasn’t already present in the room when the argument started, that she may have just seen it for the first time when re-entering the room, and that having guns present is no odd occurrence in Wyoming homes.
Multiple justices expressed skepticism of this argument.
The Supreme Court will issue a decision on the appeal at a later date.
Big Horn County considering mask variance for graduation ceremonies
LOVELL — Big Horn County public health officials are preparing to submit a variance to the state aiming to forgo masks for local high school graduation ceremonies.
If approved, the variance would remain in place past graduation ceremonies, and would also apply to summer school and possibly the next school year, according to Big Horn County Public Health Prevention Specialist Chad Lindsay.
Ten school districts in Wyoming have already received variances for mask orders, but Lindsay said public health has made the decision to hold off submitting the variance in order to ensure the school year is finished successfully and without major incident.
“We haven’t written the variance yet,” Lindsay said. “We are looking toward the end of the school year. We want to get as much of the school year done as we can to ensure we don’t have some super spreader event.”
The county will instead wait until the beginning of May, Lindsay said, with the aim being that the variance is granted in time for end-of-the-year ceremonies.
“We may use another county’s variance as a template for ours,” Lindsay said. “We also realize that the governor will continue to change orders, at least once if not more. If the state decides not to have a mask requirement, or the Wyoming Department of Health makes that decision, we won’t need to submit the variance.”
During Big Horn County School District No. 1’s regular monthly meeting on April 8, Superintendent Ben Smith said the district hopes for it to come into effect by May 21.
“That would be right before graduation. The request will be to take us through the last week of school and summer school,” Smith said.